Teachings of Jesus
Compiled by Timothy Conway, Ph.D.
On this page, let us explore the sayings and counsels ascribed to Jesus. Some of these teachings are no doubt much earlier and much more authentically from Jesus/Yeshua than other words that were attributed to him by later persons with a certain religious-political agenda. (For instance, note the clearly inauthentic, long-winded diatribes against the Pharisee Jews put into Jesus' mouth in the Gospel of Matthew—when Jesus was himself a Pharisee Jew, not an Essene, Zealot, or Sadducee Jew.)
For these teachings from rabbi Jesus we draw on the six best sources in our possession today—the reconstructed "Q-text," the crucially important Gospel of Thomas, as well as the well-known synoptic texts Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke, and Gospel of Matthew, and, finally, the well-known yet enigmatic Gospel of John.
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This no-longer-extant text, named by modern scholars after the German word Quelle, “Source,” was, according to these scholars, a real, written text circulating around 50-85 CE (Common Era). It was later used by the compilers of the Matthew and Luke Gospels to form their common source of Jesus’ sayings (e.g., see the similarities between Luke, chapter 6 and Matt. chapters 5,7). A number of Q-sayings parallel those in the Gospel of Thomas. If we accept the arguments for the existence of this “Book of Q,” then this Q text is, along with much of the material in the Gospel of Thomas, evidently the earliest authentic record we have concerning what Jesus might have taught.
In the Book of Q, Jesus is a sage of “engaged spirituality,” a Jewish-world equivalent of the Greek Cynic sages, who stood in solidarity with the poor and downtrodden, and courageously dared to speak out about injustice, “speaking truth to power,” “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” In the Book of Q, Jesus is also a mysterious figure speaking in various ways about the Kingdom of God (basileia tou theou).
One scholarly camp finds in the Q-text different layers of teachings, all ascribed to Jesus, built up over time as the Q community of Jesus-people (who preserved, interpreted and added to this tradition) underwent various ups and downs, trials and tribulations. The Q-community seems to have been subject to rejections by outsiders and they themselves rejected those persons (especially Pharisee Jews) critical of the movement or not loyal to the movement and/or Jesus. Thus, scholars view the Q1 layer as the oldest group of teachings, simple sagely exhortations and admonishments to live the Kingdom of God just as nature abides in the care of God’s Providence. In contrast to Q1, the Q2 layer is a later development, a “sudden shift in tone,” wherein the purported “Jesus” grows stern, apocalyptic, judgmental, all-knowing and self-important as both the “son of man” (linking him to the Last Judgment) and “the child of Wisdom” (Hebrew: Hokmah; Greek: Sophia, feminine noun-forms).
As scholar Burton Mack observes about the Q-community’s altered view of Jesus, God, the world, and their own group: “Aphoristic imperatives are gone, as is the sense of confidence in God’s care... In its place one hears the voice of a prophet pronouncing judgment on a recalcitrant world.... A man named John [the Baptist] enters the picture. There is reference to the wisdom of God and the holy spirit.... The rule of God is now spoken of as a kingdom to be fully revealed at some other place and time, presumably at the end of time. And a final judgment is described replete with thrones, court scenes, banishments, and a threatening figure called the son of man.... There was now a great deal of talk about ‘entering into’ the kingdom or being excluded from it.... The people of Q had constructed a very dangerous world in which to live.... The Q community had begun to imagine their world as a huge courtroom.... In this situation of trial, one was and would be required to give an account of oneself as a member of the Jesus movement. About Jesus there was no room for equivocation. Either one belonged or did not belong to the Jesus movement.” (Burton Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins, HarperSF, 1993, pp. 131-2, 141, 163, 167).
We quote here from Q1, the earliest, authentic version of Q as gleaned by scholars:
[Seeing the crowds, Jesus/Yeshua said to his disciples:] How fortunate are the poor; they have God’s kingdom. How fortunate the hungry; they will be fed. How fortunate are those who are crying; they will laugh.
I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer your other cheek as well. If anyone grabs your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to anyone who asks, and if someone takes away your belongings, do not ask to have them back.
As you want people to treat you, do the same to them.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?… And if you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Doesn’t everybody do that? … Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend without expecting anything in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of God.
Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.
Don’t judge and you won’t be judged.
Can the blind lead the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit?
How can you look for the splinter in your brother’s eye and not notice the stick in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first take the stick from your own eye, and then you can see to remove the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.
A good tree does not bear rotten fruit; a rotten tree does not bear good fruit. … Every tree is known by its fruit. The good man produces good things from his store of goods and treasures; and the evil man evil things.
Why do you call me “Master, master” [“Lord, Lord”], and not do what I say? Everyone who hears my words and does them is like a man who built a house on rock…. But everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a man who built a house on sand.
Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.
When another man said, “let me first go and bury my father,” Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury the dead.”
Go. Look, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Do not carry money, or bag, or sandals, or staff; and do not greet anyone on the road. … And if you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Pay attention to the sick and say to them, “God’s kingdom has come near to you.” But if you enter a town and they do not receive you, as you leave, shake the dust from your feet and say, “Nevertheless, be sure of this, the realm of God has come to you.”
When you pray, say, “Father, may your name be holy. May your rule take place. Give us each day our daily bread. Pardon our debts, for we ourselves pardon everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to trial [into a trying situation].”
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.
Nothing is hidden that will not be made known, or secret that will not come to light.
Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul.
I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Think of the ravens. They don’t plant, harvest, or store grain in barns, and God feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than birds? Which one of you can add a single day to your life by worrying? And why do you worry about clothing? Think of the way lilies grow. They do not work or spin. But even Solomon in all his splendor was not as magnificent. If God puts beautiful clothes on the grass that is in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into a furnace, won’t he put clothes on you, faint hearts? So don’t worry, thinking, “What will we eat,” or “What will we drink,” or “What will we wear?” For everybody in the whole world does that, and your father knows that you need these things. Instead, make sure of his rule over you [“seek ye first the kingdom of God”], and all these things will be yours as well.
Sell your possessions and give to charity. Store up treasure for yourselves in a heavenly account, where moths and rust do not consume, and where thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
Everyone who glorifies himself will be humiliated, and the one who humbles himself will be praised.
Whoever does not accept his cross and so become my follower, cannot be one of my students. Whoever tries to protect his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul/self?
[A Jewish law expert asked him what is the greatest commandment in the halakah or Jewish law:] You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is similar to it: You must love your neighbor as your self.
[Q2 layer, attributed to Jesus by a later development of the Q community:] The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is single [or: good], your whole body will be full of light. But if it is not, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
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Gospel of Thomas
This crucially important work, lost for sixteen centuries, came to scholarly light only in 1952 (with the work of Dutch scholar Guilles Quispel) after it was serendipitously discovered by a peasant in 1945 as part of an ancient collection of texts preserved in Nag Hammadi, upper Egypt. The Thomas Gospel, composed of Coptic and Greek vocabulary, is surely the most interesting and significant work in the entire Nag Hammadi text-group, an especially good example of the logoi sophon (“sayings of the wise”) genre found in the ancient Jewish and Hellenistic world. An unrefined, non-systematized collection of remembered sayings of Jesus, not embedded within any narrative or theological-biblical schema about Jesus, the Gospel of Thomas begins simply with the line, “These are the hidden words which the Living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote.” (Note: Didymos is a Greek word and Thomas an Aramaic term, both meaning “Twin”; thus, the compiler is alleged to be “Judas the Twin,” one of several Judases around Jesus, and no relation to Judas Iscariot.)
Many of the 114 sayings that follow this opening line have been shown by scholars to be core sayings just as early as the earliest core sayings used by the canonical gospels, especially as found in the Q text used by and embedded within Matthew and Luke. Most of the sayings in the Thomas Gospel are not to be found in the Q text, and thus were being circulated by a different community of Jesus people—we can call them the Thomasine community.
Unlike the Q-text and its frequent emphasis on an outer engaged spirituality, the Gospel of Thomas is decidedly about inner mystical spirituality. Writes the brilliant New Testament scholar Stevan Davies, who has done so much work to push back the date of the Thomas Gospel to a much earlier time (see below): "Probably Thomas and Q circulated separately in the middle or the later part of the first century. Their points of view are quite different, Thomas stresses the presence of the Kingdom of God now, within people and outside of them spread upon the world and that the Kingdom must be found by diligent [inner] search and inquiry. Q insists that the Kingdom of God will arrive at some future time, immediately visible to everyone, but that only a few will be allowed to enter." Elsewhere Davies says: “We must conclude that Thomas had access to independent and equally authentic traditions… Thomas may be as old as, or even older than, Q.” (Stevan Davies, The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom, Seabury Press: NY, 1983, chapter 1; see the revised edition published in 2004 by Bardic Press, featuring a revised, expanded introduction; see also his The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained, Skylight Paths, 2002; and see Davies' extensive
“Gospel of Thomas” website
with links to many articles and book-excerpts written by Davies and other New Testament scholars. A large listing of translations and resources on the Gospel of Thomas can also be found at the Gospel of Thomas section at the Early Christian Writings website. Hugh McGregor Ross has brought out more of the esoteric meaning of a number of the terms and sayings in his three books and
website on the Gospel of Thomas
Stevan Davies has persuasively shown through various lines of investigation that the Gospel of Thomas must pre-date the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical gospels, for the Mark Gospel is often taking and redacting (revising) the sayings and themes of the Thomas Gospel—often constructing entire bits of narrative from a single saying of Jesus in the Thomas Gospel. In short: Mark borrows from Thomas, but not vice versa. Therefore, scholars like Davies, Stephen Patterson, Hugh McGregor Ross, et al., want to date the original Gospel of Thomas to a period circa 50-70 CE, with core sayings going back even further—ostensibly right to Jesus/Yeshua himself (circa 25-27 CE). Davies concludes an important academic article: “We can confirm that Thomas pre-dates Mark and so the history-of-Christian-ideas must be revised to include a Thomasine Christianity pre-dating the canonical gospels.” Consequently, Davies assesses the Gospel of Thomas, “It is the most significant manuscript ever found for the history of earliest Christianity.” (From the FAQs section of Davies' "Gospel of Thomas Homepage" website.)
Unlike the Q-text and the three canonical synoptic gospels (yet rather like the Gospel of John), the Gospel of Thomas has as a primary theme the “already-here” nature of the Kingdom or Domain of “the Living Father.” However, quite unlike the Gospel of John, the Thomas Gospel points, not just to Jesus’ divinity (the topic upon which the John Gospel always insists), but to one’s own ultimate spiritual identity in God beyond the ignorant, false identification with the “drunken” selfish self and its dualistic divisiveness. Seeking and intuitively finding one's real identity in/as the Divine is one of the main themes of the Gospel of Thomas. As Davies and other scholars have shown, this theme of mystical identity with Jesus in God is one which the later Mark Gospel and even later Gospels of Matthew, Luke and especially John all tried to suppress in their endeavor to put the focus exclusively on Jesus. In the Thomas Gospel, Jesus appears primarily as an enigmatic figure “from the Light” who reveals the hidden mysteries, as well as a wise sage or philosophos, a “lover of wisdom,” and, less obviously, as an aggelos or prophetic messenger of God (as emphasized in the Q-text and in the four canonical Gospels). “Jesus is not himself an essential element in salvation, and so, in Thomas, Christology per se is actively discouraged,” writes Davies ("The Christology and Protology of the Gospel of Thomas," J. of Biblical Literature, vol. 111, no. 4, Winter 1992). For all their acute differences in “where” the Divine Light inheres (either in all of us or in Jesus alone), there are remarkable parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of John, e.g., both affirming the present reality of God's Kingdom in the world (not just in a future eschaton as the synoptic gospels posit), suggesting that they both might have been influenced by a common tradition, including a multi-faceted Jewish tradition of “wisdom” and “light,” and a Syrian tradition of Hellenistic Stoic mysticism. And note how, reflecting pious Jewish practice, the Thomas Gospel usually prefers to use the term “Father” or “Heaven” in place of “God.”
By the time of 80-85 CE and afterwards, that is to say, by the time of the compiling of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and then John (90-110 CE), the intensely mystical message of the Thomas Gospel was unacceptable for most Church leaders, as it promoted far too much inwardness and independence. This mystical disposition was seen as a threat to an already ecclesiastical and increasingly institutional church that had set up priests and sacraments for the mediation of God's Grace unto believers. For the Thomasine community of early Jesus lovers, there need be no mediators and no belief systems: God is already within and all-pervasive as pure Spirit.
Several scholars, starting with Gregory Riley (Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy, Fortress Press, 1995), have argued that the John Gospel may have been written around the end of the 1st century specifically to counter the “Thomasine Christian” community’s views, for there are clear-cut attempts in John to shift the idea of the “light within us” over to the exclusive position that “the Divine light is manifested as Jesus alone.” Contrary to God saying in Genesis 1:26-27 that all of us are created in the "image and likeness of God," which is scriptural basis for the Thomas Gospel’s elevated view of our innate Divine connection and resources, the Gospel of John sees humanity as cut off from God and needing Jesus, the divine savior come down from heaven, for us to be able to come into the Divine Presence. Riley points out how the John Gospel deliberately creates three anecdotes to denigrate “doubting Thomas” to thereby undercut the status and validity of the Thomasine Christian community. In Jn. 11:16 Thomas is made to disbelieve that Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead; in 14:5-6, Thomas doubts where Jesus is going; and in 20:24-28 Thomas doubts that Jesus has bodily risen from death. In the last instance, Thomas is notably excluded by the John Gospel from the ten disciples who receive the power of the Holy Spirit from Jesus after his Resurrection (Matthew and Luke both include Thomas as among the “eleven,” after Judas left).
For those mainstream scholars who've tried to argue that the Gospel of Thomas is a mid-2nd century CE work or later, this obvious vendetta that the John Gospel holds against the Thomas disciple and against the central thrust of the egalitarian inner Divine Light-doctrine in the Thomas Gospel would indicate that the Thomas text of Jesus’ sayings was already circulating by the late 1st century if not much earlier, i.e., before the Mark Gospel, as Davies indicates on the basis of textual criticism.
On the question Is the Thomas Gospel “Gnostic”? Davies has clarified: “It all depends on what you mean by Gnostic. If you mean by Gnostic the belief that people have a divine capacity within themselves and that they can come to understand that the Kingdom of God is already upon the earth if they can come to perceive the world that way, then Thomas is Gnostic. But if you mean by Gnostic the religion upon which the [other] Nag Hammadi texts are based, a religion that differentiates the god of this world (who is the Jewish god) from a higher more abstract God, a religion that regards this world as the creation of a series of evil archons/powers who wish to keep the human soul trapped in an evil physical body then no, Thomas is not Gnostic. This differentiation is very important, because some scholars reason that if Thomas is Gnostic (in the first sense) then it is Gnostic (in the second sense) and, as they believe, Gnosticism (in the second sense) is a second or third century heresy, they conclude that the Gospel of Thomas is heretical, late in date, and without very much historical value in regard to Jesus of Nazareth.”
Elaine Pagels in her book Beyond Belief describes the conflict between the Gospels of John and Thomas, and the ascendancy of the former over time in “orthodox Catholic” circles thanks to Church father Irenaeus' championing of the John Gospel and rejection of the Thomas Gospel and many other evidently popular Jesus-texts of the time. Pagels tells us: “The discovery of Thomas’ gospel shows us that other early Christians [e.g., the Thomasine community in Asia Minor and communities elsewhere] held quite different understandings of ‘the gospel.’... What Christians have disparagingly called gnostic and heretical sometimes turn out to be forms of Christian teaching that are merely unfamiliar to us—unfamiliar precisely because of the active and successful opposition of Christians such as John [i.e., the compiler of the John Gospel].... Within a century of Jesus' death, some of his most loyal followers had determined to exclude a wide range of Christian sources, to say nothing of borrowing from other religious traditions [i.e., elements from Hellenistic pagan mystery religions].” (Pagels, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Random House, 2003, pp. 73, 76)
Translations of the Gospel of Thomas given here below are mainly from the 1977 edition published by E.J. Brill, translated by Thomas Lambdin; also from the 1959 edition publ. by Brill, translated by A. Guillaumont, H.C. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till, and Yassah ‘Abd Al Masih. See Elaine Pagels & Marvin Meyer's translation in her Beyond Belief, pp. 227-42, and the aforementioned Early Christian Writings website for several other translations.
These are the hidden words which the Living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote. Whoever finds the meaning of these words will not taste death. Let him who seeks, not cease seeking until he finds, and when he finds, he will be troubled, and when he has been troubled, he will marvel and he will reign over the All. (Thomas logoi 0, 1, 2)
The Kingdom [Domain] of God is inside you and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and are poverty… (T logoi 3)
Many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same. (T 4)
Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest. (T 5)
I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I guard it until it blazes. (T 10) [This most likely refers to the transforming spiritual fire of the Holy Spirit; see also T 82]
This heaven will pass away and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive and the living will not die. (T 11)
Jesus said to his disciples: Make a comparison to me and tell me whom I am like. Simon Peter said to him: Thou art like a righteous messenger of God (aggelos). Matthew said to him: Thou art like a wise man (philosophos) of understanding. Thomas said to him: Master, my mouth will not at all be capable of saying whom Thou art like. Jesus said [to Thomas], I am not your master, because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out. And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. Now when Thomas came to his companions, they asked him: What did Jesus say to you? Thomas said to them: If I tell you one of the words which He said to me, you will take up stones and throw at me; and fire will come from the stones and burn you up. (T 13)
[This last logion should be read in the context of Thomas 108, which we reproduce next, and which also contains the theme of drinking or imbibing the Divine Spirit and thereby becoming identified with Jesus in the Divine Spirit:]
Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him. (T 108)
The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.” Jesus said, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will stand at the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death. Blessed is he who was before he came into being.” (T 18-19) [This is one of the most important set of sayings in the Thomas Gospel, pointing to our original, birthless, deathless, formless nature as Pure Spirit, and suggesting a profoundly intuitive spirituality. This makes more intelligible other sayings from Jesus, such as "God is Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth." (John 4:24)]
Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, “These infants being suckled are like those who enter God’s Kingdom.” [The disciples] said to him, “Shall we then, as children, enter the Kingdom?” Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female, and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness, then will you enter [the Domain of God]. (T 22) [This is another very mystical-intuitive statement attributed by the Thomas Gospel to Jesus, suggesting that our real nature, one with the Absolute Spirit, dissolves or reconciles all opposites. This theme of mystical unification is an important one for the Thomas Gospel.]
There is light within a man of light, and it lights up the whole world. (T 24) [This is the Self-shining Clear Light of Divine Awareness.]
Love your brother like your soul… You see the mote in your brother’s eye, but you do not see the beam in your own eye. When you cast the beam out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to cast the mote from your brother’s eye. (T 25-6)
Jesus said, “I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they will repent.” (T 28)
If a blind man leads a blind man, both of them fall into a pit. (T 34)
Become wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (T 39)
Whoever has in his hand, to him shall be given; and whoever does not have, from him shall be taken even the little that he has. (T 41) [This apparently harsh statement refers to the need to develop authentic virtue as well as a conscious apperception of the Divine presence by ongoing, one-pointed remembrance of God.]
Become passersby. (T 42) [Combine this with the parable Jesus tells about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which is explicitly about not being passersby, and one has the consummate spiritual balance of “being in the world but not of it,” that is, being fully involved while being completely uninvolved, i.e., transcendently free in Spirit, yet capable of rendering service to all].
From Adam until John the Baptist, there is among those who are born of women none higher than John the Baptist… But I have said that whoever among you becomes as a child shall know the Kingdom, and he shall become higher than John. (T 46)
It is impossible for a man to mount two horses or to stretch two bows. And it is impossible for a servant to serve two masters. (T 47)
If they say to you: “From where have you originated?” Say to them, “We have come from the Light, where the Light has originated through itself. It (stood) and it revealed itself in their image.” If they say to you, “Who are you?”, say: “we are His sons and we are the elect of the Living Father.” If they ask you: “What is the sign of your Father in you?”, say to them: “It is a movement and a rest.” (T 50) [This last statement most likely refers to the energetic dynamism of the Holy Spirit and also the Divine stillness, the “peace that passes all understanding.”]
His disciples said to him, “When will the repose of the dead come about and when will the new world come?” He said to them, “What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it.” (T 51) [This, again, refers to the all-pervasive presence of God as immanent Spirit.]
Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. (T 54)
Whosoever has come to understand the world has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world. (T 56; T 80 is almost identical: “He who has recognized the world has found the body, and whoever has found the body is superior to the world.”)
Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see Him and be unable to do so. (T 59)
Salome said, “Who are you…?” Jesus said to her, “I am He who exists from the Undivided. [Or: “I am He who is from the Same.”] I was given some of the things of My father.” Salome said, “I am your disciple.” Jesus said to her, “Therefore I say, if one is undivided [or: “if one is the Same…”], one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.” (T 61)
I tell my mysteries to those (who are worthy of my) mysteries. (T 62)
Whoever knows the All but fails to know himself lacks everything. (T 67) [This refers to the need to intuitively, fully realize the Divine Awareness or Source-Identity which is even beyond the "All," the consciousness that manifests the world of phenomena.]
That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves. That which you do not have within you will kill you if you do not have it within you. (T 70) [See comment on T 41]
Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber. (T 75) [The "solitary" likely refers to the one who is exclusively focused on God and a life of Divine love, beyond all worldliness and pettiness.]
The Kingdom of the Father is like a man, a merchant, who possessed merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent. He sold the merchandise, and bought the one pearl for himself. Do you also seek for the treasure which fails not, which endures, there where no moth comes near to devour and where no worm destroys. (T 76)
[In the mode of the prophets, Jesus allows the Divine to speak through him in the “I Am” language, as we also often hear in the much later Gospel of John:] I am the Light that is above them all, I am the All, the All came forth from Me and the All attained to Me. Split a piece of wood, I am there. Lift up the stone and you will find Me there. (T 77) [Note how this statement refers to the immanent Divine Presence within nature, not just the transcendent Divine Spirit beyond nature. In the Gospel of Thomas, God is all-pervasive as well as entirely beyond the cosmos.]
A woman from the crowd said to Him, “Blessed are the womb which bore you and the breasts which nourished you.” He said to her, “blessed are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it.” (T 79)
He who is near Me is near the fire, and he who is far from Me is far from the Kingdom. (T 82)
When you see your likeness [as in a pond of water or a mirror], you rejoice. But when you see your images [probably in the sense of the undying subtle soul or perhaps ultimate Spirit within] which came into being before you, and which neither die nor become manifest, how much you will have to bear! (T 84)
Wretched is the body that is dependent upon a body, and wretched is the soul that is dependent on these two. (T 87)
Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not realize that he who made the inside is the same one who made the outside? (T 89)
Come unto me for My yoke is easy and My lordship is mild, and you will find repose for yourselves. (T 90)
They said to him, “Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you.” He said to them, “You read the face of the sky and of the earth, but have not recognized the one who [or “that which”] is before you, and you do not know how to read this moment.” (T 91)
He who seeks will find, and (he who knocks) will be let in. (T 94)
If you have money do not lend it at interest, but give to one from whom you will not get it back. (T 95)
The disciples said to Him, “Your brothers [and sisters (see Mark 6:3)] and Your mother are standing outside.” He said to them, “Those here who do the will of my Father are my brothers and my mother. It is they who will enter the Kingdom of my Father.” (T 99)
Whoever does not hate his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not love his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. For my mother (gave me falsehood), but (my) true (Mother) gave me life. (T 101) [This refers to the commandment to "honor thy mother and father" but also to always realize one's real as Spirit, the Mother-Father God.]
When you make the two one, you will become the sons of man, and when you say, “Mountain, move away,” it will move away.” (T 106)
The heavens and the earth will be rolled up in your presence. And the one who lives from [on] the Living One will not see death.” Does not Jesus say, “Whoever finds himself is superior to the world?” (T 111)
… Woe to the soul that depends on the flesh. (T 112)
His disciples said to him, “When will the Kingdom come?” Jesus said, “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth and men do not see it.” (T 113)
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Gospel of Mark
The Mark Gospel, the most “undeveloped” and “under-theologized” of the four authorized canonical gospels, contains the earliest narrative about Jesus’ deeds. It features his prophetic ministry of healing and wonder-working, teaching and provoking, commencing with his baptism by John the Baptist (1:9) and concluding rather briefly with his resurrection and simple "reception up into heaven" (16:19) after a more lengthy telling of Jesus' captivity, trial and mocking by the Jewish high priests and crowds (here is the origin of nearly 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism!), followed by his torture and crucifixion by the Romans, headed by a "reluctant" Roman governor Pontius Pilate, almost entirely "white-washed" of responsibility in the Markan account. It is this Mark Gospel upon which the Matthew and Luke Gospels rely for their narrative and some of the sayings.
Scholar Burton Mack, in A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Augsburg Fortress Press, 1998) has challenged the reliability of the Mark Gospel as an authentic source for a narrative about Jesus' ministry of doings, comings, goings, passion, crucifixion and resurrection. If one accepts Mack's claim of the Mark Gospel being pious fiction, then we have very little evidence for what Jesus was like other than from what can be deduced from the two texts of Jesus' sayings—the Gospel of Thomas and the earliest layer of the Q-text.
In any case, the Mark Gospel was almost certainly the first of the four canonical gospels to be compiled, circa 70 CE, when most of the Jesus movement, originally quite Jewish, had begun to Hellenize or paganize itself as a distinct new religion (soon to be called "Christianity") separate from and rather antagonistic toward mainstream Pharisee Judaism.
We note how the most important reason for this "de-Judacizing" move away from Jewishness for many (but not all) of the Jesus-people was that, with the Romans' destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE and their rampant, ongoing persecution of Jews from this time onward, it became politically feasible for most of the Jesus-people, especially the followers of the missionary Paul of Tarsus, to identify more with Hellenism than to be identified any longer as "a Jewish cult of Jesus-lovers."
We might also note that some communities of Jesus-people did retain their "Jewishness," such as the Ebionites, the "Poor Ones," who evidently survived into the 4th century CE in Judea. The Ebionites may or may not be the same group as the Nazirites or Nazoraeans, who, if actually different, were another Jewish Jesus-loving group in the region. Robert Eisenman, who did so much work to make The Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in 1947) more accessible to scholars at large, in his massively researched tomes James the Brother of Jesus (Penguin, 1998) and its sequel, The New Testament Code (Watkins, 2006), and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians (Harper Collins, 2004)—Eisenman controversially thinks the Scrolls date from the 1st century CE (not earlier) and give us a view of the original first-century Nazirite Palestinian Messianism ("Palestinian Revolutionary Apocalypticism") of the Jesus people as led by his brother James after Jesus' passing. Herein, Jesus is a human messianic prophet but not divine, his brother James is revered as head of the Jerusalem Church, and Paul is an "apostate of the Law," a nasty Herodian who persecutes James and invents a very different, very Hellenized "overseas Christianity" in the 50s CE which would then be played up by the gospel authors one generation to two generations later.
Scholars have shown that, among the various aims of the Mark Gospel author or authors, one intention is to show the incompetence and inadequacy of Jesus' disciples, in order to undercut a pre-Markan mystical trend: the idea of becoming one with Jesus in the Divine Spirit by drinking of that Spirit. This mystical trend was already noticed in the Gospel of Thomas (see logoi 13, 108, and passim) and even in Paul's letters (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” Gal. 2:20; and the idea of Christ speaking through Paul, in 2 Cor. 13:3). But Mark (like the John Gospel some 20-30 years later) strongly opposes this idea, especially in Mark 13:5,21-2, where he has Jesus expressing concern that people were claiming the identity of Jesus, saying “I am he,” and that there were people claiming to be Christ and claiming to be prophets. And yet, for all his opposition to this idea, Mark 10:38 alludes indirectly to the possibility of being like Jesus when Mark has Jesus posing the open questions: “Can you drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” But overall, the Mark Gospel wants to define this new movement of Christianity away from the idea of receiving the Spirit of God and becoming like Jesus. As Stevan Davies writes, for the author of the Mark Gospel, if there is to be "any imitatio Christi, any claim to be like Jesus, [it] must be based on the divinely ordained career of the Son of Man, to be delivered up, suffer, die, and rise again.... For Mark imitatio Christi is not the performance of signs and wonders but sharing in the sufferings of the Son of Man." (S. Davies, "Mark's Use of the Gospel of Thomas," Neotestamentica, vol. 30, no. 2, 1996, pp. 307-334; online at http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html)
People, especially illiterate people, love hearing narrative stories. With Mark's very moving and highly dramatic narrative about Jesus, the Mark Gospel and then later Gospels (Matthew and Luke) using the Markan narrative soon dominated and surpassed the more primitive, unsystematized “sayings texts”—the Gospel of Thomas and the Q-text—in the minds and hearts of most early Christians and their emerging institutional churches. For instance, the Mark Gospel would be a much more attractive and easy Gospel to preach in a community setting, and so the more primitive and disorganized Thomas Gospel, the Q-text, and any other early texts of Jesus' sayings current at the time all fell into increasing disuse and then oblivion until the rediscovery of the Thomas Gospel and reconstruction of the Q-text in the latter 20th century.
We see with the Mark Gospel, for all its “under-developed” theology, the increasing dominance and eventual triumph of a new distinct religion of Christianity. This is a religion about Jesus instead of the mystical inner spirituality of Divine Realization that Jesus himself lived and wanted to communicate to his disciples, as evident in the Gospel of Thomas.
[To the rule-conscious Jewish scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem who visited rabbi Jesus and criticized his disciples for eating bread with unwashed hands:] Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’ (Mark 7: 6)
Hearken unto me every one of you and understand: There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him; but the things that come out of him, those defile him. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. … For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man. (Mark 7: 14-23)
[To Peter:] You savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. (Mark 8: 33)
Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life will lose it; but whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospels shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8: 34-6)
If you can believe, all things are possible to one who believes. (Mark 9: 23)
If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9: 35)
And he [Jesus] took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, “Whoever receives one of such children in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me receives not me, but him who sent me.” (Mark 9: 36)
[On a subsequent occasion:] They [the people] brought young children to him, that he should touch them [and bless them]; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it he was much displeased and said unto them, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom [or “domain”] of God.” (Mark 10: 13-14)
[A sincere person asked Jesus:] “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him: “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and thy mother.” And he [the seeker] answered and said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” And Jesus beholding him loved him and said unto him, “One thing you lack; go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, take up thy cross, and follow me.” And the man was sad and went away grieved, for he had great riches. And Jesus looked around and said unto his disciples… “How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10: 18-25; see also Luke 18: 18-27 and Matthew 19: 16-26)
And the disciples were saying among themselves, “Who, then, can be saved?” And Jesus looking upon them said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.” (Mark 10: 26-7)
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. (Mark 10: 31)
Can you drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Mark 10: 38)
And when you stand praying, forgive.… If you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11: 25-6)
And one of the scribes … asked him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” And Jesus answered him [citing the Torah], “The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength’; this is the first commandment. And the second is… ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 28-32)
And Jesus sat over against the treasury [in Jerusalem temple, after throwing out the moneychangers and merchants] and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury; and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples and said, “Verily I say unto you, this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they [the rich] did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12: 41-4)
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14: 38)
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Gospel of Luke
This eloquent gospel, dating from around 85 CE, and evidently compiled by the same author/editor(s) who compiled Acts of the Apostles, features Jesus as a great wonder-working healer suffused with the power of the Divine Holy Spirit, a rabbi teaching in the synagogues, and a preacher of wonderfully compassionate and multi-level parables (e.g., see the parables of the good Samaritan, the lost sheep, the prodigal son, etc.).
This gospel bases its narrative of Jesus' ministry on Mark, though, like the Matthew Gospel, it adds a long “birth/infancy narrative” and then an anecdote about Jesus teaching the Jewish elders in the Temple at age 12 (Luke 2:40-52), and then elaborates a death and resurrection narrative longer than Mark's. These Lukan birth and death narratives, predictably, differ from the Matthew and Mark versions in some important details, so anyone who claims that all the Gospels are literally, infallibly true has big problems on their hands to reconcile these and other texts’ contradictions.
The Luke Gospel’s source for Jesus’ sayings is largely that of the Q Text, quoted earlier (see Luke, ch. 6, passim; ch. 9:23-25; ch. 10-12, passim, etc.). Other interesting sayings in the Luke Gospel, not in the Q text, are presented here:
No servant can serve two masters…. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16: 13)
If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. (Luke 17: 3-4)
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17: 20-1)
“And he spoke a parable unto them to this end: that everyone ought to pray always, and not be lax.” (Luke 18: 1)
Watch and pray always. (Luke 22: 36) [These two passages point to the ability to always be in a prayerful or meditative state of Divine Presence.]
[The night before his crucifixion he prayed:] Father, if you will, remove this cup [of suffering] from me; nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done. (Luke 22: 42)
[Upon the cross, Jesus prays for his killers:] Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23: 34)
[His last words:] Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23: 46)
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Gospel of Matthew
The Matthew Gospel was positioned at the opening of the New Testament when this canon was compiled several generations after Jesus lived, but most likely it was written well after the Mark Gospel, around the same time as the Luke Gospel, i.e., circa 85 CE. Like the Luke text, the Matthew Gospel is based on the Gospel of Mark for its narrative and some Jesus-sayings, and uses the Q text for its primary source of sayings from Jesus. Like the Luke Gospel, this text compiled by the author-editor(s) calling himself or themselves “Matthew” also has access to some stray sayings from Jesus not found in the Q source-text. Like the Luke Gospel, our Matthew Gospel evidently takes earlier Jesus-sayings in circulation and elaborates them into longer teachings, or sometimes embeds teachings within a dramatic context of Jesus interacting with disciples or the community at large.
I have mentioned near the outset of this webpage that the Matthew Gospel evidently and unfortunately contains a lot of inauthentic material, especially the long-winded diatribes against the Pharisees put into the mouth of Jesus by some later scribe(s). We know this is inauthentic material for a few reasons: 1) Unlike short, pithy, easy-to-recall aphorisms, long diatribes would be impossible to remember verbatim and then set down word-for-word fifty years later in a new text. It's much more plausible and probable that some "angry scribe," ticked off at the Pharisee Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah or as the Son of God, sat down and wrote out pages of this venomous verbiage around the time the gospel was compiled and this material was put into Jesus' mouth as uttered by him.
2) Jesus was by most accounts of the evidence a Pharisee Jew, along with most Jews of his time. Unless one accepts Robert Eisenman's thesis (based on a late dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls) that Jesus and brother James et al. were Nazirite revolutionary Messianists, then Jesus was not a member of the other kinds of Judaism current during his time—i.e., he was not a Sadducee involved with running the Temple at Jerusalem, an angry Zealot trying to overthrow the Romans, or an Essene Jew aligned with the Qumran community (which was notably pro-Zealot in its sympathies). It's most unlikely that he would spew out lengthy harangues against the Pharisees and repeatedly refer to them by that name "Pharisee" as an excluded Other, an enemy of the Jesus community. 3) Echoing the chief commandments of the Torah, Jesus taught "love thy neighbor" and "love thy enemy"—it's therefore not in character for him to explicitly, repeatedly and vituperatively damn these fellow Jews, who formed the mainstream majority of Jewry at the time.
In light of the foregoing, we must view the Matthew Gospel, like all these ancient texts, as a mixed and rather motley collection of different expressed viewpoints, some of the material quite memorable, inspiring and spiritually worthwhile, whereas other material is better left to the dustbins of time. Alas, people like Adolf Hitler and other vicious anti-Semites long before him and well after him, obsessed over this anti-Pharisee material in the Matthew Gospel and used this material and other anti-Semitic passages in the New Testament (e.g., the fabricated Barabbas story in the canonical Gospels suggesting it was the Jews who were really responsible for killing Jesus, not the Romans)—they used all this invented material to justify their worst, murderous impulses against Jews.
Let us here focus on some of the more memorable and worthwhile sayings of the Jewish rabbi Jesus/Yeshua from the Matthew Gospel:
You have heard it said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy.” But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven…. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same? … Be ye therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5: 43-8)
Take heed that you don’t do your almsgiving before men, to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…. When you do alms, let not your left hand know what the right hand does: that your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret himself shall reward you openly. And when you pray, don’t be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closeted space, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly. (Matt. 6: 1-6)
Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit…. Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them. (Matt 7: 15-20)
Not every one who says unto me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my heavenly Father. Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who work iniquity.” (Matt. 7: 23)
All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matt. 11: 27)
Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11: 28-30)
[Told that his mother and siblings had come to visit his assembly, he replied:] Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? [Gesturing toward his disciples:] Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever does the will of my heavenly Father, the same is my brother, sister, and mother. (Matt 12: 46-50)
[Jesus brought a child into their midst and said:] Verily, I say unto you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Domain of God. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the domain of God (kingdom of heaven). (Matt. 18: 2-4)
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matt. 18: 20)
Many that are first [or: that have made themselves first] shall be last, and the last shall be first. (Matt. 19: 30)
All things whatsoever that you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. (Matt. 21: 22)
Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s. (Matt. 22: 21)
[On the last day,] then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee as hungry and fed thee? Or thirst, and gave thee drink? … And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me…. (Matt. 25: 34-40)
Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matt. 26: 41)
[The supposed last words of Jesus/Yeshua, given after his alleged resurrection:] Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28: 20)
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Gospel of John
This is the last of the canonical gospels to be compiled, around 90-110 CE or later. Unlike the three synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), all based on the Markan narrative of Jesus' ministry, the John Gospel has its own narrative story with many elements not found in the Markan story. The John Gospel also notably features a much more “divinized” view of Jesus and his ministry, a more schematized story-line of Jesus as the eternal Logos who has come down from heaven as the Divinely Incarnate Son of God (like the Roman emperor was esteemed as “the son of God”). This emphasis contrasts strongly with the synoptic Gospels, which focus primarily on the Kingdom of God, with Jesus serving as God’s prophet. Note, however, that the many “I am …” statements attributed to Jesus in the John Gospel (and in a few places in the other gospels) need not necessarily point to his own exclusive Divinity as an Incarnation, but can be seen to follow ancient Jewish prophetic literature, in which the prophet becomes a mouthpiece for God’s Wisdom (Hokmah / Sophia, feminine noun-forms). In effect, Jesus and the other authentic Jewish prophets become a channel for the Divine “I Am That Am” revelation.
Recall, however, our discussion in the preface to the Gospel of Thomas, on how it now appears to an increasing number of scholars that one of the several purposes of the drafting of the John Gospel was to combat, destroy and eliminate the central message of the Thomas text: that Jesus is a mystic sage inviting those who are ready to hear and apply it the message that the Divine Light is already our immediate Source and True Nature or Identity. Instead, the John Gospel uses various devices to denigrate "doubting Thomas" and conclusively have Jesus narrowly insist (in the manner of someone with an authoritarian personality syndrome) that he alone is the Divine, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn. 14:6) In the final "insult" to the Thomas Gospel and Thomasine community, in the passage from 20:24-28 the John Gospel has Thomas disfranchised from receiving the power of the Holy Spirit via Jesus' blessing and then, when Thomas sees Jesus, finally fall on his knees and declare Jesus to be "my Lord and my God," i.e., God Incarnate—a distinctly non-Jewish idea! Thus does the John Gospel promote external belief (belief in a separate, distinct Jesus) over one's own empirical experience, which would have unfortunate ramifications for Christianity over the next two millennia.
Elaine Pagels and other scholars have noted how the John Gospel, with its heavy emphasis on "proper belief" (orthodoxy) centered exclusively on the Divine Jesus as the "only Son of God," was not widely accepted at the outset nor for several generations. There were simply too many Christians (especially in the Thomasine community in Asia Minor, where the John Gospel was also likely composed) who felt that the essence of the "Jesus way" was to follow this God-realized human exemplar Jesus directly into the depths of transcendent mystical experience. But the relentless efforts of bishop Irenaeus of Lyon in the late 2nd century (he is principal architect of the four-gospel scriptural canon), followed by Church fathers like bishop Athanasius in the early 4th century, insured that the John Gospel would be triumphant in putting all the focus on Jesus (not on one's own mystical-experiential potential) and succeed in setting the "high Christology" tone of the Nicene Creed and later theology, as opposed to the more human, self-emptying (kenosis) Jesus of the Mark Gospel.
For these and other reasons, most New Testament scholars do not consider the majority of the following Jesus-statements in the John Gospel to be authentically from Jesus, but to be later interpolations put into his mouth by the theologically-oriented compiler(s) of the John Gospel. Yet, in light of the sagely aspect of Jesus found in Gospel of Thomas, many of these “I Am” sayings could possibly be reclaimed for a mystical Christianity.
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. … Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. … You must be born again. (John 3: 3, 5-7)
Light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3: 19)
[To the Samaritan woman at the well:] Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give shall be in him a wall of water springing up into eternal life. (John 4: 13-14)
The hour comes and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4: 23-4)
He that hears my word and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death to life. … I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father who sent me. … The works that the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me. (John 5: 24, 30, 36)
How can you believe, who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? (John 5: 44)
[Speaking to the people in the synagogue in Capernaum, with reference to the Torah story about the manna from heaven that allegedly nourished the Israelites wandering in the desert:] Labor not for that food which perishes, but for that food which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you. … My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life unto the world…. He that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst. … For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. … And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one who sees the son and believes on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. … He that believes on me has everlasting life. I am that bread of life…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. … Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. … He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. (John 6: 27, 32-5, 38, 40, 47-8, 51, 53, 56)
I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom you know not. But I know him; for I am from him and he hath sent me. (John 7: 28-9)
[To the Jews in the temple at Jerusalem]: I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. … Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true, for I know whence I came and whither I go; but you cannot tell whence I come and whither I go…. If you had known me, you should have known my Father also. … Whither I go, you cannot come. … You are from beneath; I am from above; you are of this world; I am not of this world. … He that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard from him. … I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8: 12, 14, 19, 23, 26, 28-9)
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. (John 8: 32)
“He that is of God hears God’s words; you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God. … If I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my Father that honors me, of whom you say, that he is your God. Yet you have not known him; but I know him; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like you; but I know him and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.” Then said the Jews unto him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8: 47, 54-5)
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9: 5)
[To the Pharisees, agitated over the fact that Jesus had “worked on the Sabbath” by healing a man born blind:] For judgment I am come into this world, that they who don’t see might see, and that they who see might be made blind. (John 9: 39)
He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep…. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep…. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture…. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep…. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10: 1-16)
I and my Father are one. (John 10: 30)
[The Pharisees and scribes wanted to stone him for blasphemy, “because thou, being a man, make thyself God.” Jesus answered them:] Is it not written in your law [Psalms 82:6], ‘I said, “Ye are gods”’? … If I do not the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do, though you don’t believe me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me and I in him. (John 10: 31-8)
[To Martha, sister of the deceased Lazarus:] I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11: 25-6)
[To the disciples:] Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12: 24-5)
Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you…. While you have light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light. (John 12: 35-6)
He that believes on me, believes not on me but on him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world… (John 12: 44-7)
[To his disciples, at the last supper, in a long discourse/dialogue that lasts through chapter 17, the authenticity of which has been hotly debated by scholars:] A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. (John 13: 34-5; see also 15: 12 and 15: 17)
In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there you may bee also. And whither I go you know, and the way you know. (Thomas said unto him, “Lord, we know not whither you go and how can we know the way?”) I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know him, and have seen him. … He that has seen me has seen the Father. … Believe you not that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father who dwells in me, he does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me. (John 14: 2-11)
He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. … And I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive because it sees him not, neither knows him; for he dwells within you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you…. I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.… The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you. (John 14: 12-14, 16-18, 20, 26)
It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. … When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16: 7, 13)
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. (John 14: 27)
I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I. (John 14: 28)
If you love me, keep my commandments. (John 14: 15)
If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him. (John 14: 23)
Abide in me, and I in you…. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love. (John 15: 4, 10)
I am the vine, you are the branches; he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15: 13)
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit,… that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15: 16-17)
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. (John 16: 28)
In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16: 33)
[And Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed:] Father, the hour is come; glorify your son, that your son also may glorify you. … I have glorified you on the earth; I have finished the work which you gave me to do. And now, O Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was…. Now they have known that all things whatever you have given me are of you. (John 17: 1-7)
They [the disciples] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17: 16)
For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us…. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them Your name, and will declare it; that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17: 19-21, 22-6)
[To Pontius Pilate:] My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18: 36)